With over half a billion people worldwide suffering from diabetes, more research is being done to find novel treatment options. Studies have shown that an adequate vitamin D level in the body can prevent diabetes and improve blood sugar control. Read on to find out more.
Diabetes is a chronic disease in which the pancreas cannot produce enough insulin (type 1 diabetes) or the body is unable to effectively use insulin (type 2 diabetes).
Insulin is a hormone that regulates our blood sugar levels. It converts the blood glucose to its storage form called glycogen, thereby reducing the blood sugar level.
In the absence of insulin, or its ineffective utilization by the body, the blood sugar levels rise and cause damage to body tissues, especially the blood vessels and nerves. This results in diseases of the heart, kidneys, eyes and brain, and is a major cause of death worldwide.
A healthy diet, regular physical activity and maintaining a normal weight have all been proven to prevent the onset and complications of type 2 diabetes, while type 1 diabetes has a genetic and autoimmune cause.
What is Vitamin D?
It is an important vitamin synthesised from the ultraviolet rays of the sun and is found in food such as fish, egg yolk, butter and vitamin D-fortified milk.
It is essential for proper bone growth and density, muscle strength and the prevention of cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes mellitus.
Studies have shown that approximately 1 billion people are estimated to be deficient in vitamin D globally.
Several studies have shown that vitamin D can help prevent cancer, multiple sclerosis and diabetes mellitus.
How does Vitamin D Prevent Diabetes?
Vitamin D directly affects the beta cells of the pancreas which produce insulin.
A deficiency of vitamin D impairs the secretion of insulin and causes the body cells to become intolerant to sugar. Both of these factors have been implicated in the development of diabetes.
There is hope though.
Studies have shown that replenishing the body’s vitamin D stores can correct the abnormalities.
One study showed a decrease of about 21% in insulin resistance in persons with type 2 diabetes after treatment with vitamin D supplements.
A study conducted in Finland over a span of 31 years showed that children who received vitamin D supplements during infancy had a reduced risk of developing type 1 diabetes later on by about 80%.
Good vitamin D levels in the mother during pregnancy reduces the formation of autoantibodies in the baby which can otherwise lead to type 1 diabetes.
What are the Symptoms of Vitamin D Deficiency?
Studies have estimated that about 1 billion people worldwide have vitamin D deficiency or insufficiency. They may show no symptoms at early stages. Most people, however, experience one of the following symptoms.
Without vitamin D, only 10% to 15% of the calcium in our diet is absorbed by the body.
To check if you’re experiencing bone loss, apply firm pressure on your sternum (breast bone) or on the bone right below your knee (tibia). If you feel pain, there is a high chance that you may be suffering from osteomalacia.
You may also experience generalized pain in different parts of your body.
Osteomalacia eventually progresses into osteoporosis which increases the risk of fractures from minor injuries, especially among the elderly.
Muscle Pain & Falls
Vitamin D deficiency causes muscle weakness, and decreases speed and muscle strength, making the individual more likely to suffer falls.
Studies have shown a strong link between the symptoms of depression and low vitamin D levels in the blood.
Occurs more commonly in children
It occurs in case of severe deficiency of vitamin D in young children. Usually, the mothers’ milk is also deficient in vitamin D.
Diagnosis & Treatment of Vitamin D Deficiency
Your vitamin D levels can be checked by a simple blood test.
Based on your age, your doctor will recommend vitamin D supplementation for a few weeks or even months.
Routine vitamin D drops are also recommended for children under 1 year of age.
Caution: Excess Vitamin D
An excess of vitamin D in the body can cause difficulty in concentration, confusion, apathy, drowsiness, psychosis, recurrent vomiting, abdominal pain, constipation, hearing loss, peptic ulcers, pancreatitis, arrhythmias, kidney stones and failure.
Therefore, it is advised to measure your blood levels of vitamin D and take supplements only on the advice of your doctor.
If you’re considering taking supplements, let your doctor know if you are pregnant, lactating or have a history of kidney disease.
- Vitamin D deficiency is a common condition worldwide
- Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and muscles, and helps prevent chronic diseases such as diabetes and cancer
- Vitamin D supplements should only be taken after consulting your doctor
- World Health Organization – Diabetes Fact Sheet https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/diabetes
- Holick MF. Vitamin D deficiency. New England Journal of medicine. 2007 Jul 19;357(3):266-81.
- Borissova AM, Tankova T, Kirilov G, Dakovska L, Kovacheva R. The effect of vitamin D3 on insulin secretion and peripheral insulin sensitivity in type 2 diabetic patients. International Journal of Clinical Practice. 2003 May;57(4):258-261. PMID: 12800453.
- Sun H, Saeedi P, Karuranga S, Pinkepank M, Ogurtsova K, Duncan BB, Stein C, Basit A, Chan JC, Mbanya JC, Pavkov ME. IDF Diabetes Atlas: Global, regional and country-level diabetes prevalence estimates for 2021 and projections for 2045. Diabetes research and clinical practice. 2022 Jan 1;183:109119.
- Lamberg-Allardt C. Vitamin D in foods and as supplements. Progress in biophysics and molecular biology. 2006 Sep 1;92(1):33-8.
- Marcinowska-Suchowierska E, Kupisz-Urbańska M, Łukaszkiewicz J, Płudowski P, Jones G. Vitamin D toxicity–a clinical perspective. Frontiers in endocrinology. 2018 Sep 20;9:550.